Barbie's Disabled Friend Can't Fit

Copyright 1997 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without prior written authority of The Associated Press.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) - It's a real-life dilemma in toyland: Barbie's disabled friend can't fit into the elevator of the $100, two-story Barbie Dream House.

But Share a Smile Becky and her hot pink wheelchair can join her perky pal for sleep-overs in the one-room, doorless and much cheaper Barbie Traveling Surprise House.

"This is the first fashion doll that comes in a wheelchair and it's a new initiative for us. Dream House has been out for years and two of the three houses are accessible," Mattel spokeswoman Lisa McKendall said Tuesday.

Kjersti Johnson, a 17-year-old high school student in Tacoma, Wash., who has cerebral palsy, complained about the Dream House's lack of access in an e-mail to the Easter Seal Society of Washington, based in Seattle.

"This is what we live with every day," read the note from Johnson and college student Priscilla Wong, who are involved in the Disability Opportunities Internet Technology program through the University of Washington.

"How ironic and true ... housing for people with disabilities that is not accessible! Mattel said they will redesign the houses in the future to accommodate ... now if it were that easy for the rest of us!" their message said.

McKendall defended Mattel and the Becky doll: "We have a commitment to incorporating accessibility into all our Barbie accessories that we do in the future."

Next month, in fact, Mattel Inc. will unveil the new Barbie Folding Pretty House with a wider front door and no steps or stairs.

The $20 Share a Smile Becky debuted May 21 and is available only at Toys R Us stores. McKendall said thousands have been sold, though she wouldn't be specific.

"In most places it is selling out the minute it hits the shelves," she said.